Amazon's latest batch of original series pilots is now available to stream on the Amazon website. (The pilots, unlike the full series, are free to watch even if you aren't a Prime member.) Below, we take a look at what critics are saying about the two newest live-action series. Note that scores are only listed in cases where a publication has assigned a grade to the pilot.
Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directs an adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s best-seller, which follows a group of friends across three time periods (in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s), beginning when they meet as teenagers at an arts camp. The cast includes Lauren Ambrose, David Krumholtz, and Jessica Paré.
There's so much potential in "The Interestings." The casting is great. The sets are beautiful and really capture their respective decades. And there's always some innate curiosity in how the relationships of young friends can change, sour, get stronger, and even end over years. But "The Interestings" pilot was too in a rush to let that play out.
Newell is great with character but he’s saddled with a script that doesn’t play to his talents as a director. ... There are scenes that are very strong—all of the actors are good, especially Pare and Ambrose—and it’s undeniably biting of a lot thematically. ... If anything, this pilot made me want to go read the book. It just didn’t get me too excited to see another episode.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished novel is the source for this period drama set in 1930s Hollywood, where Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammer battle for control of a major film studio. Lily Collins and Rosemarie DeWitt also star. The adaptation is written and directed by Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games), and was originally developed for HBO, though that network passed on the project.
It’s difficult to see how this material could be turned into a series, but the Amazon producers do have the fact that Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel leaves things rather open-ended, and therefore there’s plenty of room for invention. Bomer looks great in the early-1940s suits and has just the right combination of silky persuasion and agonized grief.
Too much of “The Last Tycoon” pilot feels slow and thin—like modern actors playing dress up on a backlot. And yet it often feels like there’s more here to play with long-term and that Ray is just setting up the pieces to knock them down. ... With the star power of Bomer and Collins, I’m eager to see where it goes.
The production is absolutely gorgeous, recreating the art deco world of early Hollywood with tender detail and exhibiting some deft and daring camera work that drags the material out of the gutter. Still, it doesn’t get that much further from the gutter than the dirty sidewalk. The dialogue is so clunky it lands like so many bricks out of the actors’ mouths.
Have you watched either of Amazon's new pilots? If so, let us know what you think.